As the title suggests, this blog is long over due. It isn’t because I haven’t been training or racing, it’s just because I’ve been busy. And as the time since my last blog increased, I became more daunted with writing another.
In September I returned to Cambridge to do the fourth and final year of my engineering degree. I’ve enjoyed going back to my favourite training locations around there, but I do miss hilly runs! Fitting in training with studying is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, but I’ve been happy with how it’s all been fitting together. I had a great few months of training in the autumn, and was excited for the start of the race season.
Unfortunately Central Europe has been a bit short of snow this winter. The first races I planned to do once term had finished were OPA (European cup) races in Italy. Unfortunately these were cancelled due to zero snow, so instead I race La Sgambeda, a 42km skate marathon, which was nearby, but at 1800m altitude so there was snow. It was really fun, and with hundreds of Italians on the tracks cheering it was a great atmosphere. Unfortunately my skis weren’t as fast as those of the people around me, so my time wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but I felt I skied strongly and was happy with the race.
The following weekend I raced 3 OPA races in Austria. The venue was changed, and all races were held on a 2.5km loop of artificial snow (or more accurately slush!). With about 450 people racing across all age groups the track conditions deteriorated quickly and it was tough going. I had a decent sprint, but unfortunately just missed out on qualifying for the quarter finals. My focus was on the distance races, and I had a good 5km classic (until I managed to fall over), and a difficult 5km skate as the track had turned to ice and my balance wasn’t quite up to scratch. There were a good number of British youth and junior skiers racing at these races, so it was fun to catch up with them and to see how much they’ve improved recently.
For the first time in a long time I spent Christmas at home with my family in the UK. I had a lot of fun, and we even got a bit of snow of our own on Boxing Day!
Shortly after Christmas I headed to Falun, Sweden, to get a good 10 day spell of training in before racing in a Scandinavian cup there. We had pretty much every weather condition possible whilst we were there, so the skiing conditions varied a lot – from amazing to quite grim!
The level of the competition at the Scandinavian cup was tough. The races were held at the same venue as this years world championships, so many teams (including the Norwegian and Swedish) were using the event as their selection races. My best race of the weekend was the 7.5+7.5km skiathlon. Over 30cm of snow fell the previous afternoon which turned everywhere into a winter wonderland, but it did mean the tracks were quite soft and slow – and a strong wind didn’t help. For once I didn’t panic when I got a bit boxed in during the mass start, and gradually worked my way up. I felt strong and was pleased with my finish position of 46th.
After the races in Falun I had to head back to uni for two weeks, and am now in Slovakia for the World University Games. My main focuses are the two distance races – a 5km classic time trial and a 15km skate mass start. I promise a blog on these will follow shortly!